Speaking of OpenStreetMap

Last month, it was announced that OpenStreetMap would be getting its hands on Microsoft’s aerial imagery. (One way to make maps in OSM is to draw on top of aerial imagery. Yahoo’s imagery has been made available for that purpose, but it’s is incomplete and a bit dated.) The new Bing imagery is now available through Potlatch 2 — sooner than I expected. And Potlatch 2 is now available through the regular OpenStreetMap site: you have to hover over the “Edit” tab to select it from a pull-down menu.

I’ve spent the last two days playing with both — i.e., creating maps with Bing aerial imagery using Potlatch 2. While there are places where the Microsoft imagery does not offer any advantage over Yahoo’s, there are lots of places where Bing’s imagery is more recent and at higher resolution. And there are lots of places that now have imagery that is worth tracing over that did not before. Locations that were basically unmapped in OSM now have one less excuse. (To be sure, many places with good imagery had no maps as well, but that’s a differet issue — volunteers, government data import, whatever.)

Potlatch 2 is noticeably improved over the public alpha (previously). There are definitely some areas in which it’s an order of magnitude better than the original Potlatch, but there are still some gaps — some tags I use a lot are now a lot harder to find, and line directions are invisible, so far as I can tell, on things other than one-way streets (think rivers). I don’t think it’s any less stable, so on balance I prefer using it to its predecessor.